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"Tom Irwin has done a lot to connect me with the
other turf professionals in New England."
—Bryan Barkley, Dir. Facilities and Turf Management, Dodd Stadium
When Bryan Barkley arrived at Dodd Stadium in Norwich, Connecticut in early 2010, he was a stranger in more ways than one. A Georgia native, Barkley had never been to New England. And although he was taking on the job of Director of Facilities and Turf Management for the single-A baseball Connecticut Tigers, he was not a career sports turf man.
Dodd Stadium, Norwich Connecticut
Barkley’s background was in golf. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Georgia, and then earned a Master’s in Golf Course Architecture at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. For several years, he did consulting work for developers building high-end golf course communities until that business was hit hard by the Great Recession.
So when his old friend Andrew Weber called in early 2010, Barkley was ready for something new. Weber was the General Manager of the Tigers, the short-season New York-Penn League affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. The team was moving from Oneonta, New York to Norwich, Connecticut and Weber needed someone with Barkley’s broad mix of skills and experience.
“My initial goal coming to Norwich was to create a facility that was safe for the players and the fans,” said Barkley. “Long term, I wanted it to be a major league-caliber facility.” When he arrived at Dodd Stadium, he found a 15-year-old stadium with some turf and facilities issues and only about eight weeks before the start of the single-A season. He quickly found himself doing everything from maintaining the field to installing new signage. Fortunately, his assistant, Ryan Lefler, was there to help him through the transition.
In those early weeks, several salespeople from turf products companies stopped by to introduce themselves and offer their products. But Barkley didn’t need product – he had an excess of supplies onsite due to earlier ordering done by his predecessor. What he needed was local expertise.
Bryan Barkley and Ryan Lefler
“Coming from Georgia, I understood the agronomic fundamentals, but I had challenges at first with the change in climate, the change in turf varieties,” he recalled. “That’s where the guys at Tom Irwin really came in and were instrumental in getting me off to a good start.
Before I even became a client, Chris Kneale was very willing to help me develop a program using a variety of other companies’ product that was already onsite.”
“We were able to see some early results thanks to their expertise and involvement,” said Barkley. The relationship grew as Barkley attended Tom Irwin’s soils academy event and the leadership seminar, where he met many of his peers.
“Tom Irwin has done a lot to connect me with the other turf professionals in New England,” said Barkley. “The networking side of this industry is valuable, because we all work as a family. We can troubleshoot with each other if there’s a problem.”
In particular, Bryan Barkley singles out Jack Schmidgall, who manages LeLacheur Field, the home of the Red Sox A-affiliate Lowell Spinners. “I call Jack my ‘groundskeeping shaman,’ said Barkley with a laugh. “He knows everything there is to know about taking care of a sports facility.”
Now firmly ensconced in the New England sports turf management community, Bryan Barkley feels much more at home. He said, “I love my job – providing a playing surface for sports, for entertainment – I just want to be involved in providing a way for people to be entertained and to enjoy the outdoors.”
Bryan is proud of how Dodd Stadium looks today – something he shares with Chris Kneale. “Chris really takes pride in the fields he’s working on,” Barkley said. “This field is a representation of him, as well – the hard work he puts in. The attitude at Tom Irwin is, they’re going to shine only as much as their clients shine.”
Bryan welcomes you to contact him if you have any questions about his experience with Tom Irwin: email@example.com